Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Eating celery results in negative calories.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Origins: Ours is a weight conscious society, obsessed with the chimera of physical perfection and frantic in its pursuit of the trim waistline. Yet ours is also an overfed society adrift in an endless sea of gastronomic temptation, and an under-exercised one in that our daily routines provide us with significantly less physical exertion than that of our ancestors. As a result, almost all of us
The promise of a
The calories in food are a measure of energy content. For something we eat to be a source of "negative calories," it must provide fewer of these units of energy than we expend in consuming it. Yet everything contains calories, so at first this concept appears impossible. Therefore, the hunt is on for ingestibles whose energy content is not released into our bodies because we humans lack the ability to break them down — it doesn't matter how many calories these goodies have, provided we can't extract them. Cellulose in plants is one such substance: although it contains a goodly amount of carbohydrates, they are packaged in a form we cannot digest, so we fail to absorb their calories.
Celery has about
Yet as enticing as all this sounds, the dietary bankroll built by this approach would be very small, probably amounting to no more than a few dozen calories a day. In a world where it takes 3,500 calories to work off a single pound of fat, feasting on celery would make only the merest difference.
There have been those who have taken this tiny sliver of truth and used it to form the basis of what they tout as "negative calorie diets," proving once again that anything can form the core of a diet plan someone wants to sell to others, provided it contains a notion that so much as vaguely sounds like it might work and weds it to the promise of easy, quick, effortless, and pain-free weight loss.
But in defense of celery, we note that even if it doesn't contribute mightily to a caloric imbalance which serves to work waistline magic, those who are eating it aren't eating something else. Sometimes the key to a successful reducing plan is not so much the ingestion of "good" foods as it is the avoidance of "bad" ones. And it's hard to sneak a chocolate bar into a mouth that's busy chewing celery.
Celery serves one final purpose in the battle of the bulge: it's a symbol of dietary virtue and singleminded intent. Its presence in our refrigerators signals to all comers that we are serious about the weight loss plan this time around.
Barbara "lock, stalk, and barrel-chested" Mikkelson
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